Tuesday, April 3, 2012

DeLanda's mereology

It seems that DeLanda's presentation "A new ontology for the social sciences" was later included in Intensive Science, in some cases verbatim.

While he accepts that we must “construct an ontology around the basic notion of emergent property, that is, a property of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, hence irreducible to those parts,” this is not an hierarchical mereological relation. This ontology must eliminate both Platonic essences as well as Aristotelian general categories or abstract classes. There is of course legitimate uses for general categories but the problem comes from their reification. His “flat” ontology therefore doesn't replace the nature of emergent wholes (a kind of hierarchy), just the emergent's claims to an essence and/or reified abstract class, which in both cases subsume the parts in its hegemonic inclusion. Flat in this case means both the constituent elements and the emergent entities retain their individual autonomy instead of one being completely subsumed or “integrated” by the other.

As an example he uses a species, which is neither an essence nor a general class, since “there simply isn't any core set of properties, any essence, which all the organisms which compose a species must have in common.” The difference then between viewing this mereology hierarchically is that it assumes an unchangeable “idea” underlying observed phenomenon, the abstract category within which they must fit nice and tidy. If the mereology is flat then each individual part is never subsumed within an abstract category, since its higher whole is also an individual and they “share” spaces on interaction.

Recall Bryant's strange mereology in TDOO:

"Here we encounter, once again, the strange mereology of onticology and object-oriented philosophy where objects can be nested in other objects while nonetheless remaining independent or autonomous of those objects within which they are nested. This mereology destroys organic conceptions of both society and the universe, where all substances are thought of as parts of an organic whole" (4.1).

Chapter 5.2 is devoted to this strange mereology.

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